St Nicholas Early Education has been incredibly successful since it was first launched. Families have welcomed the high-quality learning environments of our centres. These include wonderful outdoor spaces that engage children in play-based learning, supported by dedicated staff who ensure happy children.
Parents also appreciate the convenient locations, often adjoining their local Catholic primary schools. This makes for a simple drop-off and pick-up as well as easier transition to “big school”.
The professional development of staff remains a key pillar of the St Nicholas difference. The highlight of the year was the training provided by Kirsty Liljegren, a leading consultant in early education, who led more than 100 of our staff through an inspiring day of Reggio Emilia-centred coaching in June.
As the end of 2019 approaches we anticipate the opening of our seventh and eighth early education centres in the Diocese. These are at Branxton and Maitland. Our well-established services have waiting lists and we have responded to this need by expanding Newcastle West and Raymond Terrace. We expect that other services will soon expand along with new services at Muswellbrook and Gillieston Heights in 2020.
St Nicholas OOSH has been a natural extension of the agency. The aim is to ensure the same consistent quality service provided to parents needing care for their children. A number of new services have commenced in places such as Maitland and Branxton. There have also been a number of services transfer to St Nicholas for varying reasons.
While it is challenging to transition from existing providers to St Nicholas OOSH, this ensures that services can be provided to schools where external providers have walked away or will not provide a service. It ensures there is a strong relationship between the services and Catholic education and that resources are put back into our schools, parishes and charitable works rather than to profit-based or non-Catholic organisations.
A highlight for the year has been the launch of St Nicholas Pathways. Fifteen students have now committed to training in the coming year and will undertake work experience across six St Nicholas centres. These students will be mentored and have on-the-job training supported by face-to-face classes. The excitement of the students and their families has been overwhelming.
This has been a wonderful collaboration between schools and St Nicholas and is expected to grow with further opportunities for students to gain experience earlier, making the step from school to working in the early education sector a rewarding career.
The continued growth of the St Nicholas services is a testament to the quality of services that families recognise but it is also a result of the dedication and hard work of outstanding people who make the care of children their mission.